Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
House of Commons
Dear Minister Hajdu,
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities is concerned about your recent policy change on the Canada Summer Jobs program. It is troubling on a number of accounts including the fact that it makes a government benefit subject to agreement with government ideology on social policies such as abortion and sexual norms, upon which reasonable people may disagree.
This is a terrible precedent to be setting at a time when Canada is increasingly multicultural and is espousing greater co-operation among the different religious communities in our country.
The policy comes across to us as condescending. We suspect that it was not meant to be so. However, we do not appreciate the presuppositions being advanced such as:
– That organizations who do not accept the government ideology on abortion and sexual ethics are not in keeping with the Charter of Rights or human rights legislation. This is false. Religious organizations that are against abortion, and uphold traditional sexual norms are not in violation of any law;
– That children need to be protected from such organizations that hold these religious views. This, we must say, is particularly offensive and uncalled for;
– That such organizations do not respect women’s rights because they hold a pro-life position. Again this is false. A pro-life position does not disrespect the rights of women to chose what they do with their body. As a free country we are permitted different opinions. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree;
– That government funding of these organizations is somehow a government endorsement on the religious beliefs of those organizations. This logic leads to an absurdity. Government license to operate a nursing home does not mean that government endorses the religious views of the nursing home owner. Rather, it recognizes the competency of the nursing home to look after those under its care;
– That the law is settled on matters such as “Charter values.” That is not the case. There is a huge debate in the legal community as is noted by a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Gehl v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONCA 319;
– That it is ok to deny religious organizations a public benefit even though they did not violate the Charter or human rights legislation. This is totally unacceptable in light of the rule of law;
– That religious “values” is not a Charter value to be considered when it most definitely is.
We cannot but be anxious when government, by making this policy, has unjustly slurred the reputation of the religious community who hold views different from the government. Such views, they are entitled to hold without government interference.
We kindly request that you revisit this policy in light of our concerns and reinstate the eligibility for the Canada Student Jobs program to all non-profit organizations, including Christian charities who do not hold the same views on social policy as your government.
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Patty Hajdu, MP
Thunder Bay – Superior North